Zimbabwe president says he is ‘open’ to talks

June 25th, 2008 - 8:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Harare, June 25 (DPA) Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has said he is “open” to negotiations, but only after Friday’s presidential run-off election, according to state media in Zimbabwe. The state-controlled daily Herald Wednesday quoted Mugabe as saying that he was “open to negotiations with anyone, but the logical process has to be followed to its logical conclusion.”

“We are open, open to discussion but we have our own principles,” it quoted him as saying at a rally north of Harare Tuesday. “However, those who seek to impose themselves on us and make idiotic noises would not bother us.”

Observers say Mugabe appears to have shifted his stance from a week ago when he was pressed by President Thabo Mbeki, the mediator appointed by the Southern African Development Community, the regional bloc, between Mugabe’s ZANU(PF) party and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Morgan Tsvangirai, who Tuesday formally notified electoral authorities of his withdrawal from the election.

Mbeki is reported to have been pressing Mugabe to enter negotiations for a settlement to Zimbabwe’s crisis through a government of national unity with the MDC, but sources said he was firmly rebuffed then by the 84-year-old dictator.

Mugabe is under unprecedented pressure, following unambiguous denunciation by the United Nations Security Council of the violent election campaign that has left a reported 86 people dead and stopped the MDC from carrying out any campaigning through the murder, assault, arrest and harassment of its officials.

The condemnation has been added to by South Africa’s ruling African National Congress and the individual voices of leaders in South African Development Council (SADC), which meets Wednesday in Swaziland to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe said the election would go ahead as planned. Tsvangirai “cannot withdraw”, the Herald quoted him as saying. “They can shout as loud as they want from Washington and London but our people will deliver the final verdict.”

James McGee, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Wednesday said, “This will not be a contest, but a coronation.”

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